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Does the Infant Car Seat Face Forwards or Backwards?

Does the Infant Car Seat Face Forwards or Backwards?

Are you a new parent? Or are you like me, a new grandparent? You surely want to take your precious cargo out and about.

Let’s talk about the requirements when it comes to infants/young children in cars. A review of a single portion of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law can help. In fact, the law was recently changed in late October, 2017 by the Legislature and Governor Cuomo but more about that at the end.

Vehicle and Traffic Law §1229-c, until November 1, 2019, requires that:

  • all back seat passengers under 4 years of age be restrained in an infant seat which meets certain federal standards.
  • all back seat passengers from 4 to 8 years of age must likewise be in a seat which meets certain federal standards.

This statute is, of course, more complicated. For example, if the child under 4 is more than 40 pounds, different rules apply. There are other provisions if there are no lap AND shoulder belt combinations available. Incidentally, it is subdivision 3 of this statute that requires that all front seat passengers, 16 years and older, must wear a lap and shoulder harness belt.

One question which I have heard often and is the subject of much discussion among new parents and, frankly, anyone who cares about transporting infants and children is:

Which way does the car seat face, forwards or back?

New York State has provided the answer and it is the change to the law I mentioned above.

Effective November 1, 2019, yes, 2019, the car seat for all infants up to 2 years of age, placed in the back seat, shall be [which is legal-speak for must be] REAR FACING except in the event that the weight or height of the child under the age of 2 exceeds the size and weight recommendations of the manufacturer, then the seat may be forward facing.

Why rear-facing? According to State Senator Sandy Galef, the legislation aims to keep young passengers safer in cars by protecting their heads, necks, and spines from injuries that are more likely in front facing seats. Research has shown that one-year-olds are five times more likely to suffer injury if they are in a forward facing seat than in a rear facing seat. Similar laws are in place in California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.

“A rear-facing car seat law will help prevent injuries. Young children are safer in rear-facing car seats, and prior child passenger safety laws have reduced injuries among targeted populations. In New York, a one-year-old child is injured in a traffic crash once a day, on average. AAA New York State applauds the passage of this legislation,” said John Corlett, Legislative Committee Chair for AAA New York State.

Don’t buckle yourself until you make sure that everyone else, from the youngest to the oldest, is safe and secure in your vehicle. For those you love and care about, this is an easy one; just do it!

If you have specific questions about the law, it is always best to consult a qualified attorney.


Robert M. Lefland is Senior Counsel and primary attorney in charge of Personal Injury at J&G.
He can be reached by calling 866.303.9595 toll free or 845.764.9656 and by email .
He is available by appointment on Saturday’s.
If you need his immediate attention, you can reach him on cell.



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